Chicago Bears GM Position: Is There a Theo Epstein out There for the Bears?
The Chicago Cubs made a splash this month by hiring Theo Epstein, general manager of the Boston Red Sox, winners of two World Series titles in the last decade. Epstein is bringing with him to Chicago a veritable dream team of young, talented front office personnel, capable of turning around the dismal Cubs, who have not reached baseball's promised land in more than a century.
What Epstein has been tasked with, and is more than capable of doing as president of baseball operations with the Cubs, is re-working the Cubs' farm system and their methods of evaluating talent.
While the NFL doesn't employ an extensive youth development system like baseball does, the development of talent is vital to teams sustaining success.
The Bears' current general manager, Jerry Angelo, has been an obvious disappointment in the area of recognizing talent, both through the draft and free agency. His draft failures have been evident by the myriad released high-round draft picks, and continued sub-par performances by other picks, and these failures have forced the Bears to continually look to high-priced free agents.
With an aging defense already struggling for most of 2011, can Angelo be counted on to revamp this team through the NFL draft in years to come? His supposed specialty in spotting defensive talent has not produced any all-pros since Angelo drafted Lance Briggs in 2003.
In 2012, the McCaskey's and the Bears organization will be forced to spend more money under the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement. While the notoriously stingy McCaskeys are shelling out more money, it might be in their best interests to have the best football people spending their money on a new draft class, as well as in free agency.
The NFL has a number of top franchises who have built their teams from the ground up, while plugging in bargain free agents to keep them competitive every year. These teams have been playoff mainstays who are constantly reinventing themselves.
With the recent baseball front office hires in Chicago, one has to wonder if the Bears would have the vision to re-work their current front office model with Ted Phillips as president and Jerry Angelo as general manager. As long as the Bears are good enough to make the playoffs, things will probably remain the same, despite the revenue opportunities the Bears' brand is capable of in the Chicago market.
Here are some talented general managers, who along with their current staffs, would make Bears fans dream about potential NFC championships and Super Bowl berths every year. While it seems highly unlikely that these men would ever be available to the Bears, baseball fans would never have thought an executive the caliber of Theo Epstein would ever leave Boston for Chicago.
Belichick could help the Bears while working under many different roles. Head of football operations, general manager, head coach. Money and power could lure the New England head coach to the Bears, and also the challenge facing the team in the years to come.
Belichick has experienced rebuilding an aging defense, and his current draft picks on defense the last couple of years have started to succeed under his system.
When the Bears signed newly-released New England safety Brandon Meriweather this year, who thought that the Bears would actually find something that Belichick might have missed in Meriweather? To this point, Meriweather's flaws are obvious, and it's yet another example of the level of skill that Belichick and his staff have in evaluating future and current talent, while consistently remaining a top team every year.
The Bears, on the other hand, continue to throw millions at free agents like 2010 signings Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna.
Chicago might be the perfect challenge for Belichick, in whatever role he would choose to take.
Kevin Colbert's successes at Pittsburgh are impressive when you look at the talent he has drafted during his 11 years as the Steelers' general manager.
Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, LaMarr Woodley, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, James Harrison (undrafted signing), Casey Hamtpon, Kendrell Bell and Plaxico Burress are some of the big names Colbert has picked in the draft over the years.
Two Super Bowls in three appearances has been the result of Colbert's draft success, along with smart free-agent signings. The Steelers are a team that's always in the hunt for a championship.
While even the thought of a member of the Green Bay Packers joining the Bears is offensive, Ted Thompson's success at Green Bay is hard to ignore.
His philosophy of building a team through the draft has paid off for the Packers, most recently with last year's Super Bowl win. The team's seemingly endless depth was peppered with Thompson drafts, as the Packers overcame numerous injuries all year to win the championship.
If Thompson could never be lured away by the Bears, then perhaps his director of college scouting or assistant director could. Green Bay has been on an incredible run of draft picks who are able to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
While this scenario is the most unlikely, and probably not even desired by Bears fans, it would appear to be an upgrade over the current front office.
Coming from the ever-expanding football tree of Bill Belichick, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has had some early results with the Falcons, making the playoffs twice in three years.
Dimitroff acted as scout for the Patriots for six years before coming to the Falcons, and he appears to have Atlanta on the right track with recently-drafted quarterback Matt Ryan.
While his general manager body of work is still relatively small, Dimitroff has already made some smart signings, and he has a successful background in scouting.
Dimitroff could be the most likely candidate to join the Bears down the road. He is still relatively young at 45 and has an extensive background in scouting. Perhaps a role with more power will make Chicago a likely destination for Dimitroff.
While the Bears have enjoyed some success on Angelo's watch, a good number of his drafted players generally have had little or no impact in the NFL.
Can the Bears win a Super Bowl with the current front office and head coach Lovie Smith?
While the thought of any of the previously mentioned general managers working with the Bears' current ownership and structure is hard to imagine, they are just examples of NFL front office personnel who help their team through the draft, not hinder it.
Jerry Angelo made somewhat of an admission of his lack of talent evaluation when he traded first-round draft picks to the Denver Broncos for Jay Cutler. If Cutler ever does become the quarterback he was advertised as, it may be a rare success story for Angelo in recent years.
With all of the talk of organizational rebuilding the past week concerning Chicago's north side baseball club, it has to make a Bears fan wonder how successful the Bears could be with a change in the front office. The next few years may be lean years if Chicago's defensive stars' skills start to diminish, and the Bears aren't able to plug in fresh talent.
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